Thoughts on Mantra: Do Errors in Chanting Mantras Matter?
These are some thoughts on mantra chanting and errors; they are very much intended as food for thought.
Real mantras are not human concoctions; they are heard (Sruti) meaning they are of divine origin. Rishis (ancient seers) were merely the instrument through which the Divine communicated. This means they interact on a spiritual level with the body mind and soul – not just the physical.
One interpretation of the method by which mantras interact with the subtle body is akin to medicines in the field of biochemistry. They have been constructed with a precise detail with a specific effect to unlock energy currents within the body and vibrate chakras.
An enthused amateur is not qualified to self-prescribe complex medicines, nor wise to concoct his or her own pharmaceutical medicines in their kitchen! Therefore, it is advisable to adhere to the original, precise pronunciation, hopefully learned from a scholar or Guru.
For most mantras, there are no adverse effects for incorrectly chanting mantras per se, but mistakes are more than likely to limit the impact.
Our spiritual history shows us that there are always exceptions to ‘the rules’. Viswamitra (Kaushika) became a Brahmarishi despite his warrior heritage, Valmiki prayed with the words ‘Mara Mara’ instead of ‘Rama Rama’; Mara means death! And yet both represent incredibly inspiring stories of the human capacity to overcome all obstacles to succeed against all the odds.
Secondly, one would argue that the very existence of mantras to ask for forgiveness at the end of every puja , stotra and parayana (for example – Kayena vaacha – see the Satvika on this page) implies that the benevolent Gods are ever willing to put aside practice when considering an aspirant’s sincerity and devotion in prayer.
My personal view is that in the West, we unfortunately live in a ‘try’ culture. We half-heartedly attempt things only to fail. Too many excuses are made by children, adults, students, workers as to why their achievements have been hindered by external forces, such as discrimination, a lack of time, other responsibilities etc. Ultimately, the absolute responsibility you have is to your own conscience.
The basis of sincerity and good judgement is to adhere to the original method with full enthusiasm and devotion, and then humbly ask forgiveness for any mistakes we have unknowingly committed.
Understand that effort (sometimes spanning several births and lifetimes) is always proportional to the benefit. That is the very infrastructure on which the universe is founded.
…lies in yourself
Of course the ‘answer’ is entirely idiosyncratic. Hinduism (more accurately, Sanatana Dharma) is flexible enough to allow its aspirants to have a spirited debate and agree to differ.
Above all else, let us remember that all paths lead to the same goal.